Lord Newry

Thursday, 17 May 2012

This was a nice night for a walk, even the possums in the Exhibition Gardens thought so.  That was  until a cyclist came towards one of them as it waddled across the path; there was a moment’s hesitation and then it swung into the overhanging foliage of an oak tree.  As it did so it so cunningly avoiding the possum barrier on the trunk of the tree and disappeared into the tree, for, one presumes, a feast of forbidden foliage.  Note to City of Yarra Parks and Gardens: possums is smart.

As the evening was almost balmy, we decided to pick the Lord Newry, a pub that was a ‘good walk’ from the city, keeping the pubs closer in for when the weather is inclement.  Our logic here is that if the weather is miserable we walk to the closest pub on our list then we can catch the tram the rest of the way to Merri.  Honour is then satisfied as we have walked and we have’ pubbed’.

The last time Thelma and I were at the Lord Newry was the week before the ‘No smoking in pubs’ legislation came into place.  Things have changed at the Newry, no smoking inside for a start.  There has also been a refurbishment of the pub in the last couple of years, but the main feature of the Newry is its sense of genuineness, in contrast to the display home feel of The Tramways that we visited last week.

I quickly learnt the pub had been refurbished when I followed the sign for  the toilets that directed me “through the dining room”.  I wandered, I searched but no dining room, because yes, the pub had been refurbished and what had been the dining room was the pool room and yes, there were still toilets.

At the Newry you get the sense that is is a locals’ local; from the table of drinkers complete with large black dog out the front that you know have been here before and will be there in the future, to the posters advertising the pool competition, this is a place that holds a place in the community, or at least that’s what it feels like.

The menu reflected the sense of genuineness of the Newry, yes it has been refurbished but it hasn’t lost its soul What we ate: Thelma went for the Cumberland sausage ( the whiteish, spiral one) with mash, peas onion and rosemary gravy ($18). Thelma is a great fan of peas and mash. Me, I had an excellent parma, proper chicken breast with a Napoli sauce that had a hint of warmth (chili) to it ($19). And we drank: Coopers Pale Ale and Fat Yak (nothing too fancy here) – $9.70.  So all up dinner cost $46.70

Perusing the menu, we came upon Breakfast – 12 till 5pm Friday, Saturday and Sundays; with such breakfast stalwarts as Chicken schnitzel, fried eggs, saukraut, chips and salad.  So many things are wrong with this and then you realise that you are not the demographic they are trying to appeal to. Perhaps the next time Thelma and I have a big night on the sherry we might tryt the Lord Newry for Sunday breakfast.

Sitting behind us was a table of thirtysomething blokes discussing life, the universe and everything but I have to say my ears pricked up when one made the pronouncement the “a pram is just four wheels with a baby on top”.  It was amusing to listen to the ‘blokes support for this view’, I wonder what the mothers of their children think? Do they not know there is a whole pram industry that would deny this, a pram is so much more; all wheel drive vehicle, status symbol, shopping cart and some where to carry your coffee. The baby can often seem like an optional extra.

The Standard Hotel

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Lovely evening for a walk as you can see from Thelma’s picture opposite.  Actually we did spend time trying to take photos of the skipping circle in the gardens but the lighting was too poor,  so to those people who may have wondered about the two women loitering taking photos of each other, we were actually trying to capture the very impressive speed skipping you were doing.  Perhaps once daylight saving returns?

Tonight’s choice was The Standard  a pub hidden in the back streets of Fitzroy; so hidden in fact that when I mentioned it to friends who live locally, they had never heard of it.  It is a student pub but not of the grungy sort, I can imagine post grads rather than first years here.  Having said that, it was warming to watch a family of four on the next table, playing cards while they waiting for their meals – is this a return to old-fashioned family values?

The Standard has history, especially links with the Fitzroy Football Club.  As we were waiting for our meal, two guys were reading the memorabilia that was on the wall above our table, realising there could be an issue of personal space, were apologetic telling us that they were long time Fitzroy supporters and were admiring the feats of the club of yesteryear, a bit like a pilgrimage to sacred sites.  Looking  at the memorabilia of the Fitzroy  FC, shows how much life has changed.  The poster they were looking at commemorated Fitzroy creating a new VFL record high score – 36 goals 22 points 238 to Melbourne 6 goal 12 points 48.  This was achieved on Saturday 28 July 1978 at VFL Park.

Looking at this poster gave me pause for though, it was a snap shot of a time that had changed. There is no Fitzroy FC any more, it went north and became the Brisbane Lions (originally the Brisbane Bears), the VFL is now the AFL and VFL Park is now a housing estate.  For me, that one poster captured change in my life time – this musing makes me realise how time is passing, this isn’t history, it’s within my lifetime!

The menu at The Standard had the flavour of being ‘a little bit fancy’; the parma featured feta, the chicken kiev, usually a volcano of garlic butter boasted porcini mushrooms,sage and macadamia nuts. and was served with parmesan, chive and potato mash with a garlic veloutè.  I have to say, I actually don’t know what veloute is.

Although the menu may have ambitions, the delivery of a basket containing cutlery, pepper and salt, 2 slices of white vienna and sachets of Western Star butter brought us back to the ‘pub’ environment.  And I have to say that white vienna bread with a good dollop of butter is a little slice of cholesterol inducing heaven.

What we ate:  Thelma went the Delux Parma and reported it to be satisfactory but was not convinced that the addition of feta did anything to enhance its ‘ parmaness’. I, for some reason, went the for the veggie burger from the specials board, it was ok but interestingly didn’t come with salad of any sort, which surprise me.

On reflection, I may mock the fanciness of the menu, but there were several veggie options, quite a change from the good old pub days where if you asked for a vegetarian meal you got a plate of chips or were told “that’s ok we have chicken!”.

What we drank: Vale Vipa and Chestnut Pilsner from Bridge Road Brewers these were on tap and fit into the little bit fancy theme of the pub.  Thelma would like it noted that the  pilsner had the faint aroma of bacon rind about it, she was right, you know that smell of uncooked rind , didn’t taste that way.

The cost of our meal was $45: the delux parm $20, the veggie burger $15 and the beers $10.

Before we left, following our mother’ training we went to use the facilities and had a most disconcerting experience. Now The  Standard has a lovely, beer garden, quite a treat for an inner city pub, and it is well used, even on a night like this where there was a nip in the air. So? I hear you ask, well let me tell you the quaint louvered windows of the loos face in to the beer garden, like speakers in an amphitheatre.  Now, I don’t know what people on the outside can hear, but on the inside you can hear every word from the garden.

Not a criticism, just a warning!

A Rose by any other name

The Rose Hotel is to be auctioned on the 27 April @ 12pm.

Having seen this ad, we knew that the first pub in our quest should be the Rose.  For those of you who don’t know, it is a classic inner city pub that harks back to the time when the area, Fitzroy, was poor and there was pretty much a pub on every corner, or so it seemed.

Thursday was a lovely evening. We are having a long, Indian summer and it has been glorious and worrying all at the same time; no boots, coats and 24 degrees at the end of April, is this global warming at its best?

Thelma and I wandered through Fitzroy, knowing where we were going; we didn’t pay too much attention, which was why we suddenly realised that the pub wasn’t where we thought it was, ie in Rose Street.  Feeling slightly foolish, and aware of the “No backward rule”, we had to take a moment, admire the black and white cat surveying its domain on the edge of a balcony, gather our bearings, and assure our selves that we had been here before and we knew where it was.  For those of you who are interested, the Rose is on the corner of Napier and Leicester St, near but not on Rose St.

The pub itself has the feeling of a locals’ local, you get the sense that the patrons belong there – it is an extension of their living space.

What we ordered, this is a PUB so naturally I had a chicken parma – good but interestingly it had sprouts (bean not Brussel) in the token salad – perhaps a nod to it to the gentrification of the area.  Thelma had brains, large size – her rating to the dish was “a good brain is melty in the mouth, this is a bit tuff.”.  Just by the way, one of the things you need to understand about Thelma is, if there is something quirky or unusual on a menu, she will gravitate towards it just because.

To drink, we had James Squires Nine Tales on tap, hadn’t had that before– nice.

For us, the entertainment at the Rose was provided by the classic family pub presentation of the large table with 6 adults sitting at one end and a collect of 5 children at the other. The Chuppa Chup machine provided endless fascination for the young folk, am not sure if it is training for pokies in later life but the potential of “a win” in the form of a free lolly on a stick had them all intrigued.

We couldn’t here much of what they spoke about but the quote that had us intrigued was by a sister to a brother: “It’s what girls do, you might what to know that”.  Sadly we missed the context but it did give us something to mull over, exactly what did he do that called his ‘boyhood’ into question, we actually had a second Nine Tales on the strength of that – two drinks is rare but as we were under budget ($60 all up) we could do this.

For meals and beer it cost: $40.50 then a second beer ($9.00) so all up dinner cost $49.50.

As Thelma said, our experience at The Rose, “was not perfect but what I needed and was nice enough”.

We walked from the Rose along St George’s road to Merri station, at which point Thelma realised that her car was not there, she had taken the tram that morning but as it was a pleasant evening she would continue to walk, or catch the tram, whatever took her fancy.

thursday night

It’s Thursday night  and everyone knows what that means.  For the last who knows how long, Thelma and I have had a catch-up on a Thursday night.  It started as Vietnamese and telly at her place; but when the take-away lady calls you by name and knows your order without you having to say anything, you are in a rut, and things need to change.   And change they did;  we decided that to shake things up a bit , as we both worked in the city we could meet up there, and not just meet and eat in the city but why not do something radical, we could walk home and find somewhere on the way.  And that is what we have been doing for nigh on five years, every Thursday night Thelma and I meet,  share a repast and then journey home, well to Merri station at least, where we each go our separate ways.

Over the years we have themed our Thursdays, pubs, Cheap Eats (courtesy of The Age) and as we have share our discoveries with our near and dear we have often been extolled to write it down,” you should do a blog”. I think “Julia and Julia” have a lot to answer for, but anyhow, having played successfully in the blogosphere in my other life, I have decided to take up the challenge and blog our Thursday night adventures.

The theme for the next set of adventures  is pubs; specifically our aim is to visit and eat in every single pub in the area bordered by Swanston St, Lonsdale St, Hoddle St and Merri station (Epping line).  We actually did this several years ago, when smoking was still allowed in pubs and since then much has changed, and it will be interesting to experience food without that smoky aftertaste, and somethings will have remained the same, such as the sacred parma.

Now to be clear , this is not a food guide, yes we eat, yes we enjoy eating and yes we can be somewhat critical(especially me) but the aim of this blog is to share what two women of a certain age get up to on a Thursday night in inner city Melbourne… And no thesiswhisperer, there won’t be any photos of our meals!  I had a very romantic dinner at Ezard  spoilt by those on the table next to us who insisted on capturing every dish for posterity, flashes in a subduedly lit restaurant really spoil the mood..,  so no photos of parmas lying  provocatively over a bed of chips in this blog.

To show that we don’t take our quests lightly we have a set of rules to follow and they are strictly adhered to, this gives our adventurers the aura of a medieval quest, where the rules of chivalry, or in our case, Thelma and Louise, must be adhered to.

The rules

  • We have to eat at every pub that offers a meal – this could take a while
  • Budget = $60 for meal and drinks together
  • By drinks we mean beer, we are visiting pubs after all.  And where possible,  the beers have to be ones we haven’t tried before
  • We take it turn about to choose the venue, the route and to pay
  • We can’t walk backwards, not literally!  The deal is that we have to take a route to the evening pub,  to ensure that we don’t back track

So, that’s the context.  We have just finished eating our way through the Cheap Eats recommendations in our bailiwick and now move on to pubs. From now on each Thursday day we will walk home, talk about life, the universe and everything and fork our way through meals at Melbourne’ inner north pubs.

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